Monthly Archives: April 2019

Can we democratize data?

IMG_6329Last week, the Bernstein Institute at New York University held a powerful meeting of activists and thinkers about data, algorithms and resistance. We met in the classically elegant Vanderbilt Hall, under the watchful gaze of the portraits of past NYU presidents, but the emphasis was squarely on activism: how communities can resist top-down algorithmic control, and reclaim a space for democratic decision-making.

Some speakers had reports that were starkly Orwellian. Big Brother is here already, but in many countries, he’s specifically just watching people of color, trans and queer people, migrants and poor people – through predictive policing and other algorithmic forms of control and domination. For some affected communities, democratizing data is already a matter of survival.

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Democratizing Data conference

mod4_landscape_2I’m really looking forward to this one: Democratizing Data: Grassroots strategies to advance human rights will meet at New York University School of Law on April 17-18, 2019. Registration is free and open to the public.

It’s a promising motley convening of activists, scholars, scientists and lawyers. I’ll be joining the 3pm panel on April 17, “Can we democratize data?” As the organizers write, “Despite datafication’s dark side, a movement is brewing at the grassroots. When data is demystified, deconstructed, and placed in the hands of affected communities it can be used to empower and fight injustice. Exerting control over processes of definition, computation, and machine learning, communities are turning the data gaze on those in power.”

I’m reliably told that facial recognition software will not used at the event 😉 Join us!

 

Six tips for officials on working with civil society

group of people having a meeting

This is a stock photo of people having a meeting. Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I recently met a young human rights lawyer who is starting a government job, and who asked for advice on working with civil society. Her question made me realize that while there are many tools for capacity-building for activists on how to advocate with officials, I’ve never run across a capacity-building program for officials on how to work with civil society.

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Health, rights and drugs

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Première Ligne, Geneva’s government-funded safe injection site

Ninety-nine percent of people who inject drugs live in countries that lack adequate harm reduction services, including the three countries with the largest populations of people who inject drugs: China, Russia, and the United States. That is one of the key findings of a new UNAIDS report to which I contributed, Health, rights and drugs: Harm reduction, decriminalization and zero discrimination for people who use drugsThe report also shows that rates of HIV infection are not declining among people who use drugs, and may be on the rise. It calls for urgent action. Continue reading